Head start on driverless cars
New Zealand could have a head start in switching to driverless electric vehicles because there is no law here requiring cars to have a driver, KPMG says.
However, the consultancy said, a lack of charging stations, patchy rural 4G mobile coverage and mediocre roads – along with the absence of any local industry championing autonomous electric vehicle (AVs) – could hold us back.
KPMG’s global infrastructure director, Richard Threlfall, said the world was on the cusp of a transport revolution that would ‘‘transform our lives’’.
‘‘It will mean for the first time in history, mobility freedom will be available for everyone.’’
Overall, KPMG ranked New Zealand ninth on a list of 20 countries for ‘‘AV preparedness’’ – behind the United States, Britain and Germany but ahead of Australia and Japan.
The report scored New Zealand second behind Singapore for its legal and policy framework.
‘‘New Zealand has a strong reputation as a technology test-bed and consumers that are relatively accepting of new technologies,’’ it said.
But Wellington-based KPMG director Istvan Csorogi said AVs would bring major challenges, and roads and cities would need to be built with AVs in mind.
‘‘Infrastructure is a big issue in New Zealand – we need to invest in transport and mobile communications to address some of the issues,’’ he said.
Fast data networks and good roads would be necessary for driverless cars to travel safely.
Although fully autonomous vehicles are still at the trial stage worldwide, there are signs that people-driven electric vehicles (EVs) are catching on faster in New Zealand.
EV numbers reached 6603 in January, up nearly 400 in a month, according to the Ministry of Transport.
Nigel Broomfield, the chief executive of Auckland company Chargemaster, which sells EV charging equipment, said that in 2017 the growth of EVs was 50 per cent faster in New Zealand than in Europe, though that was off a lower base.
Xero chief executive Rod Drury questioned in September whether policymakers should be trying to make Wellington the ‘‘right-hand-drive autonomous vehicle capital’’ of the world.
He said then that could be one of the goals considered by a new national chief technology officer promised by the Government.
KPMG says driverless cars could vastly reduce the number of car accidents, lift productivity and raise our quality of life.